Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hellbound (1994)

Big city cop Frank Shatter (Chuck Norris) and his incredibly odious (so much so I find it difficult to not see the treatment of the character as racist, but them’s the breaks) comic relief sidekick Calvin Jackson (Calvin Levels) stumble unto one of a series of murders that’s part of the evil plans of one Pro Satanis (the spelling of the character name just might be me being ironic, he is in any case played by Christopher Neame) to finally get that Apocalypse rolling. For some reason (is that theologically sound?) that seems to be a bad thing, so our heroes find themselves quite outside their usual realms of expertise of pushing around pimps and dealers and in the world saving business instead. Even a bit of travel to Israel is in their future.

I think I have already gone on record with the fact that I don’t have much time for Chuck Norris, seeing as I find his politics abhorrent, Chuck Norris jokes deeply unfunny, his acting bad in a very boring way, and his screen fighting skills not all that exciting. If I want to say something nice about him, I mostly go for “at least he’s not Steven Seagal”, which is obviously true.

This of course doesn’t mean I’m never going to watch a Norris film, or that I hate his whole body of work on principle and won’t enjoy a movie of his even when it’s actually decent, but it doesn’t exactly induce me to run out and watch all of his films. This has of course resulted in some disturbing holes in my US 80s and 90s semi-mainstream action movie education, and that sort of thing just can’t stand.

Hellbound – directed by younger Norris brother Aaron and not to be confused with the Hellraiser film, which nobody would – in particular always sounded like the sort of thing I would enjoy as a genre mix between action and kinda-sorta horror. Alas, now that I’ve seen it (well, seen it again, because I must have watched it once during the 90s and forgotten all about it), I can’t help but find myself being disappointed by a film that’s wasting so much of its potential for fun for no visible reason.

It’s not necessarily Chuck Norris’s fault, though the fact that he didn’t learn anything about acting from 1972 to 1994 isn’t exactly something to be proud of, and certainly doesn’t help the film, but what really kills the whole thing are the reams and reams of bad, unfunny, never-ending humour that’s based on Jackson being an idiot and Shatter treating him like a little child. This crap breaks up all of the possible tension you should have in a film where a demonic villain (given with some pleasure by Neame) goes around ripping out hearts to get together a sceptre that’ll make the Apocalypse (evangelical Christian version, one presumes) happen, with a handful of decent action scenes in between, and the younger Norris even putting some effort in to make things moody in an appropriately cheesy way. Unfortunately, for every five minutes of fun, there are ten of “comedy”, never ending, painful, soul-sucking “comedy”, all expertly set to destroy much of the film that would otherwise be actually somewhat awesome and definitely highly entertaining in a cheesy kind of way. There’s also a painfully underdeveloped “romance” between Norris and Sheree J. Wilson’s character, but between the way the script treats this as hated yet perfunctory necessity, and its need to convince us that Norris is really, really hot, there’s not much joy – though a degree of hilarity – to find there either.

It’s not even too difficult to imagine a better, comedy-free version of Hellbound; unfortunately, none of the people involved did.

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